I first saw Blur at Sheffield University in 1991, in a place called 'The Maize (or was it Maze?) Bar', a vegetarian cafe by day, a part-time indie venue by night. I went on the advice of a friend, who assured me they were an 'up and coming' band. They thrashed about. Damon, the lead singer, looked out of his head, and the music was a distorted display of rhythm, riff, and raucousness. It was ok but I'd forgotten them by the end of the week. There must have been a couple of hundred people in the audience. I remember standing, watching, a dull ache of wanting to go home seeping through to the soles of my feet.

I next saw Blur seven years later headlining the 1998 Glastonbury festival. I was standing in a deeply muddied field, along with about thirty thousand others. They were fantastic that night; it was a fantastically druggy night. Elegant lines of guitar came soaring out of chrunching riffs. The light show was phenomenal and melded into the music perfectly. Songs like 'This is a Low' - a clever concatenation of the shipping forecast and an isolated emotional life, 'Beetlebum', 'On Your Own', and 'The Universal' came fragile, surrounded by otherworldly squawkings and wrapped in lush keyboard sounds. And in the middle of it all bounced Damon, wearing dark green cargo trousers and an untucked, electric blue, tee-shirt with a yellow-petalled flower in the middle.

At one point the crowd erupted and surged forward, crushing those at the front. Someone came on to the stage half-way through the song to ask Damon to tell everyone to move back. The song came to an abrupt halt while everyone moved back.

Damon: "no, we don't want anybody getting hurt."

Like it was only music; as if it was only music. There are more important things in life; like life. But what beautiful songs they continue to write. It's a strange, twisted, end-of-the-pier, end-of-the-world beauty; narratives of the mundane and the bathetic, the frantic and experimental. The search for a kind of aural peace. What a noisy search it's turning out to be.


June 1999